Posts

Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Anointed to Make Missionaries” based on Luke 5:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 10, 2019

Did you notice the strong connection between the readings in Isaiah and Luke today?  In both, God calls workers to share his Word; first Isaiah, then Peter, James, and John.  In both, before the call is made, there is an impressive showing of God’s glory; for Isaiah, it was in a vision where the Temple shook and something as simple as the train of God’s robe filled the Temple and, of course, for Peter, James, and John there was this miraculous catch of fish that happened after catching nothing all night long.  And, in both these readings from God’s Word, that show of God’s power elicited the same reaction from his prospective missionaries.  Both Isaiah and Peter recognized that they were in the presence of God Almighty and were absolutely terrified—and then they were comforted, and then they were called.

It is actually quite interesting to note the timeline of Peter’s call into the gospel ministry.  He had already been in Jesus’ company for some time.  He must have witnessed some of the other miraculous signs that Jesus had been performing.  He would have been a part of the crowds that had been gathering from all over to hear Jesus preach and teach.  In fact, he was so enamored with Jesus that Luke records, in the chapter just before the Gospel appointed for today, that Peter had invited Jesus into his own home and, subsequently, watched as Jesus healed his mother-in-law.

Peter had been praying with Jesus.  He had been meditating on the words that Jesus had been saying.  He was gaining quite a bit of respect for this great teacher.  So, naturally, when Jesus asked to use his boat as a pulpit to preach to the people on the seashore, he obliged.  And, even when Jesus tried to tell him how to do his own job, after fishing and catching nothing all night, he submitted his pride and acumen to what the Rabbi wanted.

Prayer with Jesus and meditation on what Jesus said.  That’s actually two-thirds of what Martin Luther said makes for a great theologian and missionary for God.

And, so, as the time was coming for Jesus to call Peter into his ministry, it was time to initiate that important third aspect.  Prayer, meditation, and, in German, Luther called it Anfechtung.  In Latin it’s called tentatio.  In English?  Well, there’s not really a word for word translation, but it is often described as an agonizing internal struggle—you know, like the kind when you find yourself face to face with the Almighty God who created you and, if he so wished, could destroy you.

You don’t have to read a biography about Luther to understand why he emphasized that last part, do you?  Haven’t you experienced the same to be true?  Don’t you find out the most about your God and your faith when you are going through or have gone through an agonizing internal struggle?

Or, maybe it’s easier to look at it in comparison.  You just got a promotion at work.  Your marriage couldn’t be stronger.  Your kid just won another award and you just finished your basement renovation.  Sure, you may recognize the guiding hand of your God behind it all and be thankful for his blessings, but which one causes you to spend all day talking to your God?  Which one forces you to your knees, recognizing your helplessness, completely dependent on him?

That’s not to say that God’s physical blessings in your life are bad or that they somehow would disqualify you from being one of his workers here on earth.  But, as it was for Isaiah and for Peter, it is important for you to recognize and remember exactly who God is, who you are, and what he has done for you before you seek to share that truth with others.

Your own personal Anfechtung and tentatio may differ from those around you.  For some it is sickness, disease, or the separation of death.  For others it is persecutions that come for being a Christian.  Still others experience it when the Devil continually reminds them of that one scientific fact that doesn’t seem to jive with what the Bible says, when a Christian doesn’t act very Christian-like toward them, when, for what seems like no reason at all, a wife turns her attention to another man, or when all that life is throwing at them just becomes too much to handle.

It is in those moments when Christians, who have spent time in prayer with Jesus, who have meditated on the words that he has said, seek to find strength outside themselves because they recognize they cannot do it on their own.  They realize, like Isaiah, that they are ruined in the presence of God and, like Peter, that their sin causes them to be unworthy of his care and concern.

There in the depth of despair, helpless and hopeless, in an existential and anxious awareness of your own failings and faultiness, is when you can finally search for, and find, true hope and assurance outside of yourself.

Don’t be afraid.  That’s what Jesus said to Peter and that’s what he says to comfort you as well.  Yes, the consequences of sin surround you in this world and they are difficult and painful and cause agonizing internal struggles.  But none of them, no matter how powerful, can overpower Jesus and his work done for you or take you away from the love that he has for you.  In fact, in his love for you, he often uses those terrible times in your life as opportunities to draw you closer to himself.

When you are sick, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When you are afraid, he sends you to pray and meditate more on his Word, where he tells you fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, and uphold you with my righteous right hand.

When you are overwhelmed, he tells you to Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.

When you sit your 7-year old on her pretty pink ballerina bedspread, hold her tiny hands inside your own, and tell her that her mother is dead, he speaks and says I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.

He overcomes your anfechtung and tentatio with the only thing that will work; the only thing more powerful than them all: himself.  He gives you all that he is and all that he has done for you—from his perfect life lived in your place and sacrificial death to pay the price for your sins to his ability and promise to work all things for you and for your good; to fulfill for you each and every one of your needs.

He has cleansed you.  He has made you worthy in the eyes of your God.  He has given you the strength to endure anything that this world might throw at you and now—after prayer, meditation, and an agonizing internal struggle, he calls you to share that cleansing, that worthiness, and that strength with everyone that you may meet.

Yes, God has made missionaries to share that good news with people in far off lands who do not yet know it, but even here in Hartford, among your co-workers and in your own circle of family and friends, God has called you to be his theologians and missionaries.  The fields are ripe—go harvesting.  Even if you have been working to catch your fish all night, drop down your nets again.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Believe and Therefore Speak

Guest Pastor John Boggs delivers a sermon entitled “We Believe and Therefore Speak” based on 2 Corinthians 4:13-15 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, February 3, 2019

Transcript not available

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is Anointed to Fulfill the Scriptures

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is Anointed to Fulfill the Scriptures” based on Luke 4:14-21 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, January 27, 2019

It was Jesus’ custom to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath Day.  That didn’t start simply after his baptism in the River Jordan, his temptation in the wilderness that followed, or when he got back from the wedding at Cana.  It was his custom from the 8th day of his life.  At his circumcision, in some ways not unlike after a child is baptized today, Jesus was welcomed into the family of God and, after that ceremony, he was brought to weekly worship.

However, even though it was his custom, there was something that made this Saturday’s worship attendance a little different.  His presence at that particular place of worship was somewhat of a homecoming experience.  He had been away—being baptized at the River Jordan, facing the devil’s temptations, attending a wedding and, after that first miracle, performing other miracles as well.

In addition, news had been spreading about him lately.  The Nazareth Daily Bugle, if it would have existed, would have had op eds written about the local boy who had turned into a countryside and countrywide phenomenon.  People wanted to hear him preach and teach.  They wanted to watch him perform signs and wonders.  They just wanted to be around this captivating man.

So, it is no surprise that when Jesus went back into the synagogue that he grew up inside, the people would want to hear what he had to say.  Somewhat similarly to what is done in worship services today, prayers, songs, and readings from God’s Word were regular portions of the synagogue’s liturgy and order of service.  And, after a few readings, there was time for a speaker to preach a message based on one of those readings.  (If only we had kept the custom of sitting down to preach that message!)  Either way, when the time came for that Sabbath’s sermon, Jesus stood up to read and sat down to preach.

What would the local boy say?  What applications could the carpenter’s son proclaim from Isaiah’s prophecy?  In the verses that follow the Gospel reading appointed for today, it seems as though the people didn’t much care for his sermon.  But it wasn’t because he still needed some seasoning in his presentation, like a seminary student who preaches the whole counsel of God with gestures and inflection that could use a little more experience.  Nor was it because he had one of those sermons where he probably could have said amen 6 or 7 times already, but just said the same thing again and again.  They certainly couldn’t have been upset about it being too long—it was only 8 words!

No, the reason they didn’t much care for his prepared remarks was because, in those 8 words, he was claiming to be something special and something for which they had been waiting so long to see.  In fact, their waiting was so long that their impression of how those scriptures would be fulfilled had gathered some extra expectations that Jesus certainly wasn’t living up to.

They wanted a king.  They wanted political freedom.  They wanted someone to sit, not on a synagogue chair, but on a golden throne in an ornate castle and spread the borders of his kingdom with actions, not simply with words.

Is that what you want in your Jesus?  Someone who isn’t only going to speak, but is going to act?  Someone who will fill your bank account. Someone who will turn this corrupt democracy into a productive theocracy.  Someone who will support you when you do what feels right to you.  Someone who will take action against the terrorists and those zealots who kill and destroy in the name of false gods.

Like the people of Nazareth, there are times when the expectations of who Jesus, the Christ, should be overshadow exactly who God told you he would be.  Instead, rather than looking for signs and wonders, listen to him.  Listen again to Jesus’ short sermonette: Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.

The one who fulfills the Scriptures did so, and does so, for you through what you hear.

The work Jesus was anointed to accomplish, according to the prophecy of Isaiah, doesn’t have anything to do with your bank account, corrupt politicians, or terrorists.  It didn’t deal with the Messiah, the Christ, that people wanted, but the one that they, and all people, including you and me, needed.

Friends, you were poor; not because your savings couldn’t support your daily physical needs, but because you were lacking the wealth of the riches stored up for you in heaven.

You, too, were captives; not because you can’t get your governmental representatives to pass laws against abortion or in support of your personal political platform, but because you had a master who enslaved you and forced you to act in contrast to what your conscience told you was right.

However, though your conscience protested, it is not as though your slave-master, the devil, had to whip you into submission to serve him in sin.  Many times, all he had to do was suggest something enticing to your own sinful nature—a nature that was blinded from seeing the difference between selfishness and selflessness.

You were oppressed by the devil, this world around you, and your own sinful nature, which kept you in the state of being a poor prisoner, without any hope of seeing the light of God’s truth.

And, while you were looking, either for ways to continue down the road of death and destruction, or to take the high road of enlightenment, one day, either quite recently or many years ago, the scriptures that testified about Jesus were fulfilled in your hearing.

Someone, somewhere, at some time, came to you in the power of the Spirit.  Whether their preaching was a 35 minute sermon delivered rather awkwardly or a quick whisper which wrought welcome relief in your time of woe, it was dynamic; not because of what you saw or felt, but because of what you heard.

It may have been attached to the waters of your baptism, taught to you in a Sunday School classroom, sung into your heart by your mother while you cuddled in her warm embrace, or heard in Steinbrenner’s sermon last Sunday, but either way, anyway it was preached, it was powerful because, through it, the Spirit that was on Jesus (v. 14) then went to work in you.

That good news brought the wealth of salvation to your poor soul, freed you from your enslavement to sin, by opening your eyes to see Jesus as the only way to heaven.

The power of the Spirit, sent through the Word that you heard, convinced your heart to trust that Jesus’ perfect life was lived in your place and that his atoning sacrifice was made to bring you at one with your creator.

The power of the Spirit, sent through the Word that you heard, produced faith in your heart that unlocked Jesus as the fulfillment of all of the Scriptures.  Sinful assumptions and expectations are removed and your ears have heard how Jesus is your Messiah and Christ, the same One who was promised to Eve and Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that, because of what he has done for you, the Lord’s favor rests upon you year after year.

Whether you’ve been spending your time away in foreign lands, facing the temptations of the Devil, or attending weddings, make it your custom to come back to your home church week after week to hear his proclamation to you.  Jesus was anointed to fulfill the Scriptures and he did, for you and for all.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Our Family Needs Most – Jesus!

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “What Our Family Needs Most – Jesus!” based on John 2:1-11 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, January 20, 2019

I recently read that in 1960 there were 308 cases of child abuse reported in the U.S.  Today, there’s a report of child abuse every ten seconds.  In 1960 the divorce rate was under 20%.  Today, the divorce rate is nearly triple that.  Would you be surprised to learn that in 1960 teenage homelessness and teenage suicide were not nearly as prevalent as they are today?

I’m not suggesting that the year 1960 was a little slice of heaven on earth.  What I am suggesting is that the home…the family unit…the very core that God designed is under a tremendous amount of stress today.  I am suggesting that the devil, that roaring lion, has been trying to sink his teeth into the family unit for generations upon generations.  I am suggesting that societal trends are doing less to build up and support God-fearing families and they’re doing more to tear them apart.

What are Christians to do?  Run scared?  Surrender?  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?  I am suggesting that we redouble our efforts….that we regroup…that we surround ourselves with godly influences and peer groups and friends who will support us in our Christian faith, not try to sabotage us.  And mostly, I am suggesting that we rally around the One Our Families Need Most – Jesus.

Today in our Gospel we see him as he often shows himself in Scripture…steady…caring…ready to help.  It’s the first of his miraculous sings, we’re told.  Well, it must have been a doozy, huh?  Actually, it was all pretty lowkey.  It happened in a little town called Cana at a little wedding.  Wedding celebrations lasted days, even up to a week.  People took off of work and celebrated with the family.  Wine was not only a staple – something people would drink with meals, but it was also part of the celebration.  At some point the wine ran out.  Mary approaches Jesus.  Jesus reminds Mary that he will dole out blessings at his rate and in his time.  Mary steps back and waits on Jesus.

Isn’t that a beautiful, peaceful picture…Mary steps back and waits on Jesus, telling the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Our homes could use a little more of that…waiting on the Lord…trusting in his hand of blessings…trusting him to give at his rate and in his time.  If I had to make a list of things that would instantly make my life better, what would I include?

  • More money
  • Better health
  • A boss who appreciates me
  • More money
  • A spouse who understands me better
  • An extra week of vacation
  • Did I mention more money?

Instead, you already have what your family needs most – Jesus.  And he knows how to take care of you.  Bring your requests to him…big ones and small ones…just like Mary did.  Pour your heart out to him.  He’s listening.  But then step back and wait.  Step back and trust.

Turning water into wine may not seem so flashy, but it does show you and me that Jesus cares…he pays attention.  When things matter to us, they matter to Jesus too.  But know this, just because this miracle of turning water into wine might seem lowkey, but it is no simple matter.

In 1988, first game of the Word Series – A’s versus Dodgers.  Bottom of the 9th.  2 outs.  Dodgers are down 3-4.  After a nearly 7-minute at bat, Vic Scully, Dodgers announcers exuberantly shouts out, “The impossible has happened.”  That’s because Kirk Gibson, who could barely walk, stepped up to the plate and hit a 3-2 slider over the right field wall…home run…Dodgers win.  “The impossible has happened.”  Improbable yes.  Unlikely, yes.  Against the odds that a badly injured Gibson would hit a home run in that scenario, yes.  But not impossible.  Impossible means it cannot be done.  Impossible means there is no way something can happen in the natural course of things.  Impossible means it would take a miracle…the hand of God…intervention from God himself.  Kirk Gibson hit a baseball 375 feet.  There are literally thousands upon thousands of people who can and have hit a baseball that far.  That’s not impossible.  Turning water into wine.  That’s impossible.  That takes power.  That takes the hand of God.

With Jesus we get used to seeing the impossible happen.

  • The Son of God takes on human flesh and is born of the virgin Mary.
  • The Son of God lives perfectly and dies sacrificially – paying for ALL sin.
  • The Son of God says, “whoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life”

This powerful Son of God intervenes.  He takes care of our biggest problem of sin and carts it away – removes it from the equation.  He confronts our biggest obstacle, death, and turns it into a sleep…a doorway to heaven.  That’s a miracle!  That’s something thousands of people cannot do….only ONE can and has.

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee.  He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.  The Gospels are filled with miracles.  Again and again Jesus did things that only God could do.  This miracle in Cana, along with all the other miracles, got people to pay attention to his greatest work (that only God could do):  his death and resurrection.  AND these miracles  bolster and build up the faith of his disciples.

Don’t the miracles of Jesus do the same for us?

  • If those miracles ignited the faith of his disciples, don’t they also ignite our faith?
  • If those miracles caused the disciples to be excited to follow Jesus, to drop everything and follow Jesus…to become life-long students of Jesus and his Word…don’t we too?

The world is not a nice place.  Our families struggle at times.  Let’s not wish we could turn back time and revisit the 1960’s, let’s instead run to Jesus…rally around Jesus.  What Our Families Need Most…we already have.  Jesus.  Helper in every trouble, the Forgiver of every sin, the Listener to every prayer, the Provider of every need…and we pray, the welcome Guest in every marriage…every home…every family.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Loves Me Party

Saturday, March 2ND from 10am—1pm

For kids, ages 3K—4th Grade

The Jesus Loves Me party is an outreach event for kids in 3k-4th grade on March 3rd from 10 am – 1pm. Come for a day filled with Bible Stories, activities, lunch, crafts, music & gym time!  Invite friends and neighbors to this FREE event. CLICK HERE to Register to attend.

If you would like to help out with this event in any way CLICK HERE to sign up. You can also contact Julie Ehlers at juliebehlers@gmail.com or 262-623-8785.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is Better than Just OK

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is Better than Just OK” based on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered on Sunday, January 13, 2019

The nervous couple sits in a hospital room, anxiously waiting for the surgeon to arrive. They ask their nurse, “Have your ever worked with Dr. Francis?” “Oh yeah,” she says, “He’s okay.” As they scrunch up their noses at that less than enthusiastic endorsement, the surgeon himself comes bebopping into the room, loudly chirping, “Guess who just got reinstated?!?!” And under his breath he whispers, “Well, not officially.” The rest of the commercial from ATT continues in that general direction, all leading up to the tagline: Just ok is not ok. And the message hits home. When it comes to important stuff—like a surgeon, or to a lesser degree—your wireless service, just ok is not ok.

How about when it comes to your eternal salvation? Obviously, just ok is not ok. You don’t want to be on your death bed, having gone with a provider who only has 75% success rate. You would rightfully be quite nervous to stand before the eternal judge, having put your trust in one who can only guarantee that God will…probably let you into heaven. When it comes to the most important stuff like having a Savior, just ok is not ok. You need the best. You need a guarantee. You need someone who inspires your confidence. In our text for this 2nd Sunday of Epiphany, we see that Jesus is the right man for the job of saving you. Jesus is so much better than just ok.

When John the Baptist says “one who is more powerful than I will come…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (He will)…. gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” you know he’s not talking about agriculture. Gathering wheat and burning up chaff refers to sending people to their eternal destinies.  It lets you know that this is important stuff, the most important in fact. We’re dealing here with the something that matters for eternity.

Isn’t it easy to get messed up on that? How much more important the next life is than this one! So often when we’re going through especially dark days, eternity becomes almost an afterthought. A “taken for granted” that gets quickly acknowledged and then pushed aside as we seek relief for more pressing pain. “Yes, yes, I have a Savior who rose from the dead for me. Yes, yes eternal life in heaven gives me hope. I don’t doubt those things, Pastor. I love those things. But….I want something to save me from the pain that I’m feeling right now.”

This world around us offers us any number of saviors (small s) that say they can help with that. There are all kinds of unhealthy behaviors can numb our pain. Overspending, overeating, overdrinking. Porn says that it can save you from pain. Social media offers a temporary escape to happier times and places. Maybe it’s a boat or a cabin that offers refuge and respite. Maybe it’s living vicariously through our kids, maybe it’s an obsession with career advancement or house pride—there’s any number of little saviors in our lives that people turn to make us feel ok.  But depending on which one we’re talking about those saviors range from just ok at best to sinful Soul-destroyers at worst.

They may give relief, but it doesn’t last. They may numb heartache, but heartache comes back tomorrow. That makes all those things sub-par saviors. Only Jesus gives you relief that is long term, forever lasting. That makes him so much more than just OK.

His baptism is his promise that he’s all in with you for the long haul. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.  A couple weeks ago, we pointed out that Jesus’ investment with us as shown by his willingness to share our humanity and all the negatives that come with it. Today, we see Jesus’ investment with us in another way, in his willingness to stand in line, side by side with everyone else and be baptized. Jesus wasn’t baptized because he needed forgiveness of sins. He had no sins. He was baptized to send a message: I’m walking in your shoes. I’m standing with you. The things that humans do, I will do as well. You and I are in this together. Jesus is better than just ok because he is totally invested in you.

Lastly, in the account of Jesus’ baptism, we see that the Father and the Holy Spirit think Jesus is more than just OK too. As he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” There’s something about a powerful, personal testimony that makes moves us even when nothing else will. I would never have bought an instant pot, but when my sister talked about how easy it was to use….  We attend a certain church, send our kids to a certain school, dine at a certain restaurant, wear a certain brand of shoes all because someone we trust said, “I’ve had a really good experience with this. I totally stand behind it.”

Isn’t that what’s also happening in our text? If God in heaven says Jesus is more than ok—that he is the Son who brings a smile to the Father face, we nod our heads in agreement and joyfully concur. That’s all that we need to hear. Jesus is so much more than just OK because God himself gives him a personal, powerful endorsement.

You know that Jesus is more than OK. You knew that before you came today. So what’s the impact of this message for you? First of all, your baptism connects you with Jesus. What he is becomes what you are. And so if the Father looks at Jesus and says, “In him I am well pleased” that means that he also looks at you and says, “In you, I am well pleased.” All because you have a Savior who’s more than just okay.

And being attached to Jesus with the insoluble bonds of water and promise means something else too. It’s summed up nicely in a phrase that you may have passed over without a second thought when we read our text. At that moment, “heaven was opened.”  That’s what Jesus came to do. His perfect life fit the lock, his innocent death turned the key, his glorious resurrection pushed open the door that Adam and Eve had slammed shut. Jesus is more than just an okay Savior and that means heaven is opened for us.

Even if you knew that before you came maybe, by God’s grace, you leave a different person than when you came. You and I have an awesome Savior, one who’s so much better than just ok. And that stokes the fire in our souls. We want to be better than OK for him. Maybe we leave here a little less content with obedience that’s just ok, with a just okay reining in of our eyes, our thoughts, our mouths.  Maybe we’re no longer so okay with just okay marriages, just okay parenting, just okay worship, just okay Bible Study, a just okay prayer life. Maybe instead, by God’s grace we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Maybe we, by the Spirit’s power become even better models for our kids of what living faith looks like. Maybe we, by the Spirit’s power start to take our faith all the more seriously–actively seeking to grow and improve and to truly be invested in the One who is so truly invested in us. That would be more than OK. That would be awesome. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus is the Lord of Life and Death

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is the Lord of Life and Death” based on Mark 5:21-24, 34-43 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, July 1, 2018

When the Pharisee Nicodemus, the member of the Jewish ruling council, came to meet Jesus in that famous section of John, chapter three, he did so under the cover of night.  It was a secret meeting.  Nicodemus didn’t want his coworkers to know that he was going to see, and to talk with, Jesus.  He was likely afraid of what they would have not only thought about him, but also what it might have meant for his career.  He couldn’t be seen or known to hang around with Jesus, the troublemaker.

Jairus, the man in the Gospel account today, came under no such pretense.  He didn’t care what people thought about him, what they might say to him, or what it might have meant for his career.  Yes, he was a synagogue ruler.  Yes, Jesus’ work was, in some ways, making his own job obsolete.  Yes, there would be consequences for being seen or known to hang around with Jesus, the troublemaker.  But, that didn’t matter to him in the least.  There was only one thing on Jairus’ mind; only one thing important to him.  His beloved daughter, his 12 year old girl, was dying and Jesus was the only one who had the power to help.

Have you ever had to get a second opinion?  The doctors say that they can’t do anything to help.  The disease has taken its hold and no amount of surgery, therapy, or medication will change that.  They say they could possibly slow it down, give you a couple more weeks, months maybe, but there is nothing else to do other than just make your loved one more comfortable in their last days.

Well, that may be what Hartford hospital has to say—but what about Froedtert?  The Mayo Clinic?  St. Jude?  That drive down to Milwaukee wouldn’t bother you a bit.  Plane tickets to Minnesota or Memphis?  Who cares how much they would cost, just get me a flight as soon as possible!

The bible doesn’t say exactly how Jairus knew that Jesus had the ability to help.  Mark’s Gospel, prior to this account, reads like pop star’s summer concert tour.  Jesus performed here and there, sometimes twice in one day.  He drove out a demon and healed a leprous man.  He went to a different town, there healing a paralyzed man and performing an exorcism.  He went out to sea, calmed the storm, came to land, sent demons into a herd of pigs, and crossed back over to the other side of the lake where Jairus was waiting for him.

It’s possible that Jairus heard about, or even saw, some of these miraculous signs.  Maybe members of his family, seeing him in distress, mentioned the man who worked wonders as a last ditch effort.

Whatever it was, Jairus believed that Jesus could do what he was asking.  My little daughter is dying.  Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.  So that.  Not, perchance, she might, if you would.  Not, I’m all out of options and I’m just hoping.  Put your hands on her so that she will be healed.  He believed.  So Jesus went with him.

Jairus got the second opinion he was looking for.  The healer was going to heal.  He must have been so excited as they traveled back to his home.  But then came the terrible news.  Some men came from the house…Your daughter is dead, they said.  Why bother the teacher any more?

He trusted.  He had faith.  He believed Jesus had the power to help and Jesus had agreed to help.  But now it didn’t matter.  His beloved daughter, his 12 year old girl, was now dead.

Jairus had seen her suffering.  He heard the local doctors tell him that death was just around the corner.  No matter how much hope he held out in his attempt to get Jesus to help, it didn’t change the fact that he knew that the death of his daughter was something he would almost certainly have to face in the near future.  However, no matter how much you prepare yourself for that which will eventually come, it still comes with shock and surprise and pain and overwhelming sadness.

It wasn’t some sort of failure of faith, it was simply facing the reality of the situation.  Even the most minor of medical procedures have a chance for complications.  And, the reality of life in this sinful world makes you face reality in more situations than the severity of life and death.

You can have the strongest faith in the world, but still have to face the truth that you might, at any time, lose your job.  Your wife could, one day, decide to leave you or, maybe worse, carry on with someone else while still staying with you.  The house could go up in a fire, the transmission in your Toyota might drop, or your friends and family could find out about that sin you committed in secret and you would have to live the rest of your life in boatloads of shame, day after day.

That, brothers and sisters, is not doubt.  That is not an empty faith.  Recognizing the distinct possibility that any of those, including life and death situations, could happen at any time is not sinful.

However, when the fear of those circumstances, or fear during those circumstances, drives you to despair; the corner has been turned.  That is what Jesus warns against in this section of Scripture.  Listen again to Jesus’ response to the worst news Jairus ever heard:

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

Just a few chapters after this account, Jesus told his disciples that faith can move mountains.  Jairus didn’t need his faith to move mountains, he just needed his faith to move his feet forward, following Jesus to the house where his daughter lay dead.

The thought of moving mountains, simply by faith, might be intriguing, but don’t you have more pressing matters to attend to in faith?

Don’t be afraid; just believe that your job loss doesn’t mean the end of your livelihood.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that the difficulties in, or even the end of, your marriage doesn’t mean the end of your experience of love in your life.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that God will forgive even that sin that shames you.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that even though you are suffering right now so terribly, it will not last forever.

Don’t be afraid; just believe that the same Jesus who raised the daughter of Jairus back to life was raised to life again, himself, after the death he died for you and your sins.  Don’t be afraid; just believe that he shares the benefit of his death and the power of his resurrection with you and that he delivers and demonstrates it, just as he did for Jairus, through his Word.

Don’t be afraid; just believe his promises to you.  Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will wear he promises.  Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you is his pledge to you.  I know the plans I have for you he declares.  He invites all who are weary and burdened to come to him and he vows that he will give you rest.

Your daughter, dad, or friend might not rise to live here on this earth with you again, but that doesn’t change his lordship.  The suffering, pain, and even death that you see and experience is only temporary.  It is possible that those circumstances will be removed now, but, even if they aren’t, you can believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that the Lord of life and death will use his power and authority for you.  He will remove you from this world of sin and sickness, pain and sadness, when he wakes you from the sleep of death.  He will take you by the hand and allow you to feast at his banquet for all of eternity.  Amen.

God is Our Guide

Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “God is Our Guide” based on Job 38 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, June 24, 2018

About a year after we were married, Shelly and I took a trip out west to Boise, Idaho. While there, we went white water rafting. Now, in high school I remember rafting the Wolf River here in Wisconsin and canoeing down the Crystal River, but this was the North Fork of the Payette River…a main tributary to the Snake River and a stretch of water experts have deemed one of the most challenging class of rapids in the country, maybe even the world.

Rapids are rated by class – 1,2,3,4 and 5. On the Payette River you can’t just hop on a raft and float. You need a guide. A good guide will help the rafters learn how to paddle through some of the lower class rapids. A good guide will know how to avoid the dangerous waters – the class 4 and class 5 rapids. A good guide will know when a group of rafters is ready for something more challenging and when they need to stick with more mild waters. A good guide has one job – get those rafters through the waters safely.

That trip to Boise was a blast. And that rafting experience is one I’ll never forget. White water rafting, while challenging, is fun. The river of life often brings us through some pretty choppy waters and it isn’t always fun. In our Lord we have a good guide…a perfect guide…a powerful and loving guide. He knows (better than we do) when we can handle or when our faith can benefit from class 2 or 3 rapids and he knows how to keep many rough waters away from us altogether. But he has one job – get us through the waters of life so we can arrive safely to heaven…with our soul and faith in tact.

The book of Job introduces us to a very devout and godly believer. The Bible tells us he was a believer who lived is faith, prayed for his children, and worshiped the Lord. His waters were smooth and serene. But then the Lord allows a series of class 5 rapids to come crashing down and around Job. His possessions were taken away, his children (all ten of them) were killed in a tornado-like accident, his good health was replaced with sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. His wife and his friends offer no words of support or comfort, only bad advice. Job’s faith was rocked. He still trusted the Lord, but he had questions:
• Why me, Lord? Why are you doing this?
• Surely I don’t deserve what you have given me, especially since so many wicked people out there seem to be prospering.
• Why, Lord? If you have the power, why not make my life better?
• Explain yourself, God!

Ever been there? What rough waters have you been through?….are you going through now?…how would you classify the severity of those rapids?
• Raising a family isn’t easy. Raising teenagers…raising toddlers…raising teenagers and toddlers.
• Being a teenager isn’t easy. Extra responsibilities…Extra peer pressures…Extra temptations.
• Relationships aren’t easy….picking up the pieces after a family has been broken apart – not easy.
• It’s hard to paddle through when finances are tight, when my body hurts, when old age is taking its toll, when memories of my loved one
still bring daily tears to my eyes.

Like Job, these rough waters don’t make us lose our faith, but we have our moments. We have our quiet, behind-the-scenes moments where we look up to heaven and ask, Why me, Lord? Surely, Lord, you could just reach out your hand and make my life a little better, a little easier. Why don’t you? Don’t you care about me?
I have a question for the children and teenagers. Have you ever heard one of your parents say something like this….particularly after you might have been arguing about something or complaining that some decision they made was unfair: “Maybe you’d like to try running this household. If you think you could do a better job of being a parent, then you can start paying all the bills and doing all the maintenance on the house and the vehicles and setting up all the doctor and dentist appointments and buying all the school clothes and school supplies for your siblings…if you think you can be such a better parent.”

That’s kind of how the Lord responds to Job. Job is starting to question the Lord and some of his actions or lack of actions. The Lord speaks. The Lord doesn’t feel the need to justify his decisions or to give answer to Job’s complaints. But he simply reminds him that he is certainly capable of his job – getting Job to heaven not making his life easy. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

Do you think you could do better? When we consider how God created the world and now cares for the world….when we consider how he keeps the lakes and the streams and the oceans in place…when we consider how he set the stars and galaxies in place…how he made the animal kingdom – some creatures so powerful, yet they answer to their creator (he spends a couple more chapters talking about this), are we really going to call God into our office, sit him down in a chair across from our executive desk, and lecture him on how he should do this or do that in our life? O Lord, in our weak moments, we speak about things we do not know. Forgive us.

Just a word about Job. He lived during the time of Abraham. That means he didn’t have a Bible on his bookshelf or coffee table. So many of the Gospel promises we have known since our youth, Job simply didn’t have.
• Can you imagine going through choppy waters without having God speaking to you and guiding you in his Scriptures?
• Can you imagine being tired and weary but not knowing about Jesus invitation: Come to me, and I will give you rest?
• Can you imagine a guilty conscience and the weight of sin pressing so heavy upon you without also hearing Isaiah shout out – Yes,
we’ve gone astray, just like sheep…and the LORD has lifted our iniquity off our backs and laid it on Jesus?
• Can you imagine feeling alone and not knowing how Jesus has said: Surely I am with you…always?
• Can you imagine going through a class 4 or 5 rapid without having the assurance that this too will be a blessing to your faith and
that adversity will cause you to cling to the life raft of God’s promises all the more.
• Can you imagine losing a loved one, without the words of Jesus – because I live you will live – echoing from the mouth of the empty
tomb?

All the angels shouted for joy when the Lord displayed his power after his creation was complete. The angels shouted for joy when the Lord sent his one and only Son into this world. The angels shout for joy when sinners repent and turn to the Lord. And won’t they shout when the Lord our guide accomplishes his goal…as he guides us through the rough waters…and brings us safely to the other side of the shore.

Certainly a God who has the power to control all creation…a God who has the compassion to give us his Son…if THE God who serves as our capable guide. Amen.

Jesus is Lord of the Kingdom

Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Lord of the Kingdom” based on Mark 4:26-34 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, June 17, 2018

Last week, we celebrated a fun anniversary in my family, one that’s unique to families with adopted children. Last Friday was the anniversary of the day in 2010 when we got the phone call that told us that a baby in China had been matched up with our family, and that we should check our email for a picture. Last Friday was the anniversary of the first time that we saw our daughter’s Nora’s face.

It doesn’t seem like 8 years ago. It seems like just yesterday that we received that picture.  It seems like just yesterday that we were playing “this little piggy” with her toes and popping a seemingly endless stream of cheerios into her mouth. It feels like I blinked and eight years have passed. She’s not a grown up yet, but boy has she grown and it makes me ask myself….how exactly did that happen?

We didn’t tell her to learn how to walk or to talk or to lose her baby teeth. Those things just happened. We didn’t consciously will her to get taller, or to develop her unique set of character traits and personality quirks. They just happened and are continuing to happen. In short, she’s doing what all the rest of did or are currently doing. She’s growing up.  We didn’t make it happen but it sure is cool to be a part of it.

Jesus makes the same point in our Gospel lesson. The kingdom of God grows subtly, mysteriously, wonderfully. We don’t make it happen, but it sure is cool to be a part of it. He doesn’t use the illustration of a child growing up. Instead he talks about a seed planted in the ground.

You probably know that Jesus had this habit of describing intangible things in tangible ways. So he wouldn’t talk about love, he’d talk about a father running out to meet his prodigal son, first throwing his arms around him, then throwing a party around him. Jesus wouldn’t talk about persistence, he’d talk about a little old lady who badgered a magistrate so often and so intensely that eventually he gave in. The “kingdom of God” is definitely an intangible thing. It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around such an abstract concept. So Jesus described it in various places in various ways that people could understand—it’s like a precious pearl hidden in a field, it’s like a net with all kinds of different fish, it’s like a banquet that people are invited to. Or in this section from Mark 4, This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

The first thing He wants us to notice is how “out of our hands” the kingdom of God is. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. So you might be thinking, “If the growth of God’s kingdom is out of our hands—if it just “happens” like a baby growing into an 8 year old, or a seed pushing up through the ground…well then why do bother doing anything? Cuz life in this kingdom can be exhausting, even brutal some times! Why do we give our offerings? Why do we unlock our school doors and welcome students year after year, when it is so costly, so time consuming, and judging by the post-confirmation church attendance numbers, so often ineffective? Why do we haul our kids and grandkids up on our laps and teach them to sing, “I am Jesus’ little lamb.”? Why do we put hours and hours of preparation into a worship service? Why do we study the Word with earnest and inquisitive hearts? Why do we crucify our sinful natures and submit our will and wants to God’s will? If the seed grows all by itself, why do we invest so much of ourselves into the effort?

The answer’s quite simple, really. Because He lets us! He lets us be a part of and play a part in His kingdom. And that is a privilege that is both generous and entirely undeserved. I had a professor back in college who marveled at the fact that God can save anyone….even pastors. (He got it. He was a pastor himself!) And the longer that I live in my own skin, the more I realize the wisdom of that statement.  Love that is big enough to take such an undisciplined disciple, such a consistent backslider, such a chronic complainer and not only have mercy on him, but then also set him in a pulpit and make him an instrument, that is love worth sharing, a gospel worth dying for, a seed worth scattering.

Think about it another way. You’re here today because somebody at some time scattered a little seed towards you. Somebody taught you the demands and commands of holy God. Somebody cared enough about you to tell you that were wrong, to cut you down to size, to not allow you to get away with doing stuff that God hates. And most likely, it was that same somebody who showed the blood stained cross and explained what happened there. Somebody told you that you had an identity not given by a world that lies, but by a God who always tells the truth. Somebody told you that about what it means to be forgiven and forgive, what it means to serve without expectation of recognition and give without expectation of repayment. Somebody told you that you don’t have to be afraid of death. You’re here today because somebody scattered a little seed your way. And because the Lord of the Kingdom saw fit to make it grow. Who was that person for you? Who might be the person who will some day look back at you and smile…because you were the one who scattered a little seed into their hearts?

You see, it’s not like the farmer is incidental in the whole story. He has an important job after all. He scatters the seed. It’s just that he’s not the one who makes it grow. He can’t make it grow faster or slower. He can’t make it grow by shouting at it, sweet talking it and compromising with it. He just scatters the seed. The Lord of the Kingdom makes it grow.

So as we look this text, a bunch of important applications come to mind. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Seeds don’t look like much. That’s why they put pictures of the plant on the seed package and not pictures of the seeds themselves. The seeds don’t look like much. But boy do they grow. So also God’s Word might not always look like much. And we live in a world that loves to point out that how outdated it is, how irrelevant it is, how overly simplistic it is, how unduly complicated it is. They only see the seed. They have no idea how big the plant grows, or how long the plant lasts—for decades, for generations, even for eternity.

Secondly, don’t be discouraged. Some times the seed seems to be doing nothing for a really long time. We get discouraged when we don’t see the growth in our lives or in the people around us that we’d hoped. When the temptations don’t immediately go away, in fact they get more intense. When the attitudes don’t immediately change 100 percent, but instead we see no change at all, we tend to get restless and expect results right away. Be patient. Remember that there may be growth that only God can see. Keep scattering the seed for yourself and those around you. Then watch and see how the Lord of the Kingdom might make the plant grow.

Finally, don’t forget there’s a harvest coming. Jesus said as much. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” No farmer plants grain just for kicks, just because he’s bored. He has the harvest in his sights. The Lord of the Kingdom causes his gospel to grow in homes, and hearts and churches with a goal in mind. He plants with a purpose—that one day he will gather his grain into the storehouses of eternity. Until that day, may the one who caused the seed to take root in you, continue to make it grow—for he is the Lord of the Kingdom. Amen.

Jesus is Lord Even Over Evil

Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus Is Lord Even Over Evil” based on Mark 3:20-35 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.

Delivered: Sunday, June 10, 2018

What can the power of Christ strengthen you to accomplish?

Perhaps you are having difficulty in your marriage. The power of Christ is strong enough to overcome selfishness on your part or even the sins of your spouse. Strengthened and motivated by his love, and in thanksgiving for his love, there is no rift that cannot be reconciled.

Maybe, for you, it is an habitual sin or addiction that, try as you might, you have not been able to quit. 12 steps and a slew of self-help books haven’t been able to scratch the surface of your struggles. However, the power of Christ, through his Word and Sacrament, is stronger than your own willpower. He can, and will be, the fix your heart, body, and mind are so desperately seeking to find.

You may have your doubts about the power of Christ in those situations. And, truth be told, overcoming those obstacles, with something as simple sounding as Word and Sacrament, is certainly easier said than done. And, in the Gospel for today, from Mark, chapter 3, there is a strong case study for why that power of Christ can be so difficult to trust.

It started with a little bit of betrayal. Long before Judas and his infamous kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane or Peter’s repeated denials before the rooster’s crows, others who were supposed to be loyal to Jesus showed themselves to be quite the opposite.

It was those closest to him who threw the first stone. Here, his family; his mother, brothers, and sisters—they were the ones who went to take charge of him, to seize him, to grab him and shake him by the shoulders. They are the ones who were saying, over and again, He is out of his mind.

But his family wasn’t alone in placing stumbling blocks along his path. The teachers of the Law, who came down from Jerusalem, too, tried to get Jesus to stop what he was doing—to stop preaching, to stop teaching, to stop healing, and, as odd as it sounds, to stop driving out demons from those who had been possessed.

Of these two groups standing in the way of Jesus’ mission, it might be easier to understand where his family was coming from. They may have thought, like some silly Snickers commercial, that Jesus simply wasn’t acting himself because he was a little hungry. He got so wrapped up in his work that he didn’t have a chance to eat and, therefore, he was doing things that made him appear beside himself—a little out of his mind.

The teachers of the law, though, were a different story. They, themselves, were so caught up in trying to discredit Jesus that they abandoned logic in their accusations.

How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

While some were saying that Jesus was out of his mind, it was actually the charges of those teachers of the law that were bordering on insanity.

Why would Satan control Jesus to drive out Satan? That doesn’t make any sense. Satan would be fighting against himself and against the demons that he sent if he had possessed Jesus and gave him the power to expel and exorcise them.

No, Jesus was not possessed by Satan or any demons. In his address of the accusations that stood against him, Jesus revealed the work that he came here on earth to accomplish and who, instead, was actually in Satan’s possession. And, as he often did, he taught this truth with a parable. Listen again:

No one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.

You know the rules for interpreting parables, right? You find out who or what is meant to represent you in the parable and who or what else is being illustrated as well. Finally, then, you search for the heavenly truth that is being taught.

Are you the strong man? Are you the robber? No, brothers and sisters, you are the possessions. And, unfortunately, the strong man who had possession of you is not Jesus or God, but, rather, someone who you needed to be stolen away from. That strong man is Satan, himself.

Ever since the fall into sin, all of mankind has, by nature, been under the possession of the Devil. And, as Jesus intimated in his parable, Satan was able to keep human beings in his possession because he is strong. He is so strong that he convinces those in his possession to do things they ought not, and sometimes even know they shouldn’t, do.

The strong man had convinced Jesus’ own family to call him insane. The strong man had convinced the teachers of the law to abandon logic. What has the strong man, through his powerful lies, strengthened you to accomplish?

To distrust or doubt the power of Christ?
To be selfish in your relationships?
To depend on bottles of booze or pills to get you through the day?
To worry about and fear the challenges you face on a daily basis in your health, in your bank account, or in your career?
To covet that car, that house, that wife, or those children because, with even more lies, you believe that you deserve them?

In the opening hymn today, you sang, “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none. He’s judged, the deed is done! One little word can fell him.”

In order to get you, the possessions of the strong man, Jesus had to tie him up. He had to take away his power, to remove the venom from the ancient serpent’s bite.

In writing this hymn, Martin Luther identified the way that Jesus was able to take away Satan’s power, the one word that he, and we, can say to overcome his temptations and accusations. Jesus identified Satan for what he really is. That one word is “liar.”

Satan works against you in the same way that he did against Adam and Eve in the beginning. He lies. Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from this tree? Did God really say that he will strengthen you and support you and provide for you all that you need? Did God really say that you shouldn’t desire things that aren’t yours? Did God really say that you should love your husband unconditionally? Did God really say that you are forgiven?

Satan is a liar! Jesus tells the truth. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.

Do you doubt the power of Christ? You are forgiven.
Have you gone back to the same habitual sin or addiction over and again? You are forgiven.
Have you been selfish, greedy, impatient, or discontent? Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.

Jesus is able to pronounce that forgiveness upon you because of what he did for you. He lived perfectly in your place and, sacrificing his perfect life on the cross, he received the punishment that your sins deserved so that you wouldn’t. He gives you forgiveness because God’s wrath for sin has already been doled out on him. He gives you forgiveness because his work declares you innocent in the eyes of your God. He gives you forgiveness because the debt your sins incurred has already been paid.

Yes, you deserve hell. It is true that God shouldn’t provide for you or preserve you. But, because of Jesus’ perfect life and innocent death, done for you, when Satan says that you are going to hell or that God doesn’t love you and that he will not provide for you, he is lying.

Satan is the strong man who tried to keep you as his possession in his house. But, thankfully, for us fights the valiant One, whom God himself elected. You ask, who is this? Jesus Christ it is. The almighty Lord. And there’s no other God; he holds the field forever.

The Devil is strong, but Jesus is the Lord even over evil. By the power of Christ, your sins are forgiven. By the power of Christ, the Devil is undone. By the power of Christ, given to you in Word and Sacrament, call the Devil a liar and be strengthened by the truth. Amen.